Getting well and being present

Connecting hospitalised children to their school and family

People

Associate Professor Frank Vetere
Dr Lars Kulik
Tsharni Zazrn
Dr Julie Green
Peter Rossi

Funding

The University of Melbourne, Interdisciplinary Seed Grant

Period

2012

Project web page

Getting Well and Being Present

About

The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne admits approximately 11,000 school-aged children annually. Many of these children experience a significant disruption to their school experience and family life. The Hospital currently delivers a comprehensive education program for children in hospital. However, school based educational support from the hospital is limited to infrequent and ad hoc use of technology to connect children to their schools. Additionally, connection between family at home and the hospitalized child is restricted to the telephone, usually a personal mobile phone. In addition to the trauma of illness, many children suffer dislocation from family and schoolmates.

The sense of distance and isolation is particularly acute for children with a chronic illness. At school there is a serious risk that out of sight, out of mind contributes to disconnection with school and school activities. At home, children are absent from the important routines of everyday life and celebratory events. Additionally, there is a loss of contact experienced by the family and the schoolmates. Thus there is a need to both improve the child's sense of connection with home and school, and to improve the family's and the school community's sense of connection to the child in hospital.

This project builds upon the creation and testing of an ambient orb that helped absent children create a presence in the classroom. The orb alerted the child's teacher and schoolmates to their desire to be 'present' with peers. Additionally it will extend the reach of the technology beyond schools into the family home. Instead of an ambient orb this project will trial an Android based tablet application that provides connection between hospital children, their schoolmates. Such technology can lead to an increased sense of belonging and enhanced connection to the children's core communities in both the home and the classroom.